Jerry C. explains the Social Hierarchy

Jerry switched the channel again, this time to a detergent commercial. 

“Notice how the little black girl is telling the adult white woman what detergent to use.  The black kid is a two-fer.  The rule in advertising is even more explicit than in government grants: Black trumps white, youth trumps maturity—and so does old age—female trumps male.  If you don’t like it, join the Ku Klux Klan.”

“This is all very interesting, if a little obvious, but I came here to learn about political strategy…”

“What do you think I’m taking about.  You think I like commercials?  I can’t stand television and don’t watch any movies made after the death of Steve McQueen.

I made the mistake of asking him “Why not?”  He explained that with very few exceptions there were no actors or stars or even actual human beings in Hollywood films, only the faux-celebrities manufactured by his counterparts in what is jokingly called “the industry.”

“The new breed—and I use the word advisedly--of celebrities are not even good-looking.  Take Brad Pitt or, better still,  Lindsay Lohan.  She can’t sing, can’t act, and has the face of a weasel in heat, but they—or should I say we—put her on the front page of every so-called newspaper in the country. Even after the makeovers, she’s not beautiful, but what difference does it make: She and Katie Perry and even Paris Hilton now define beauty, and someone who thinks otherwise should move to France.”

“If you can make anyone a star, why not pick someone talented or at least beautiful?”

“What would be the point, where would be the fun?  It’s the same in politics.  Yes, we could have groomed an intelligent and principled war hero like Admiral Stockdale and made him a senator, but it was a lot more fun to pick John McCain, who was so goofy he didn’t even realize how many people he annoyed every time he opened his mouth.  The best part of what we did was giving him this campaign reform shtick, when the guy had more mob contacts than Barry Goldwater or Paul Laxalt.  My friends in the other party have become the real pros.  They got Obama—a do-nothing state senator of no ability—elected President and came damn close with the ugly old hag that rode poor Bill Clinton half to death.

“I’d love to have managed Obama.  Here the guy’d been in politics, what, 13 years, but when he went for the brass ring, no one knew any thing he’d ever done or any stand he’d ever taken.  He’s a dream walking, so dumb he thinks he’s smart.  I think he actually believed his message, “Time for a change.”  He never asked himself, “Change from what to what?”   It’s just time for a change.  It was sophomoric, meaningless, but a brilliant move.  Ever notice, by the way, that when one of these guys runs for a new office, it’s always time for a change, but once they’re up for reelection, they want us to stick with experience?”

“You’re pretty cynical about politicians…”

“Cynical about politicians?  Not me.  I’m an artist.  I don’t vote, because it would only confuse me.  No, it’s not politicians I despise; it’s the American people and their so-called wonderful democracy.  This is a country where people eat Big Macs and think it’s food, drink fruit-flavored Miller lite and think it’s beer, watch Spielberg movies and think they’re entertaining—or better still, that they’re art.  Over the years they have read Tom Friedman, George Will, and Charles Krauthamer thinking they’re political intellectuals instead of being political flacks like me except they’re not good enough to get in the practical side of the business.

"I love listening to those guys on CNN and FOX.  They’re all interchangeable.  Maybe they actually have an opinion of their own somewhere in the dank dungeons of their so-called minds, but no principle is so cherished that they aren’t willing to change it.  I'd love to run Megyn Kelly as a presidential candidate.

"When I was a young punk, I wasted time writing for the newspapers—I liked to see one of my many names in print.  I can’t tell you how many times an editor at, say, USA Today, would call me up to say, “Would you write me a piece defending chain gangs or corporal punishment in school?  If I said I didn’t actually think chain gangs were a good idea, they would always say, “Yeah, I know, but would you still write the piece?”

“Did you ever write it?”

“I always wrote it.   What the Hell do you think I am, the honest man you’re not supposed to be able to cheat.  I never met him, and, believe me, I’ve met lots of different types.

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

5 Responses

  1. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    Dr. Fleming,
    I have really enjoyed these pieces and when they arrive I sit in my chair in the evenings and sometimes laugh out loud when I am reading them. My daughter will say either Dad is reading Tom Fleming again or received a text from his old friend in Kansas and as sad as it may seem, she is usually right. Thank God for the little things like good humor and friends in these trying times.

  2. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Robert, thanks. I always suspected you had distorted tastes, and you are a crowd of one in liking these pieces.

  3. Avatar Gregory Fogg says:

    Two.

  4. Avatar Allen Wilson says:

    Actually, Three

  5. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    With me, we have the Italian expression quattro gatti, four cats, which means “virtually nobody.”